In my opinion, STRATOVARIUS are the best Speed/Melodic Metal band of this earth besides HELLOWEEN. Every new album has its hits and classics and except from their really weak debut album "Fright Night", STRATOVARIUS had never released any bad album. One of the greatest works of the guys around guitar player Timo Tolkki is surely their "Visions" album from 1997.
The ten songs on this album are thorough on highest level and offer pretty much variety. Supercatchy and STRATOVARIUS typical speed songs like "Black Diamond" (hit), "Forever Free" or "Legions" meet midtempo stompers like "The Kiss Of Judas", "The Abyss Of Your Eyes" or "Paradise". New respectively stronger appearing on "Visions" is the classical vein of the band. The "crazy" Swede Jens Johannson always conjures up new classical elements from his keyboard and also Timo Tolkkis guitar playing has a strong classic influence. That also means, that the bombast factor on "Visions" hasn't decreased. But STRATOVARIUS don't exaggerate it. Exactly that subdued bombastic elements serve for the goose flesh on halfballads like "Before The Winter" and "Coming Home". Singer Timo Kotipelto can completely convince with his crystal-clear voice this time. That wasn't ever the case on their first records. But in the meantime, he also handles the high pitched passages and his voice remains always diversified.
On the instrumental "Holy Light" all musicians show off their abilities. This song offers a lot of time changes and the already known guitar/keyboard duels between Timo Tolkki and Jens Johansson. Unfortunately, the song gets a bit lenghty towards the end. Could have been shorter. But this is also the one and only critics on "Visions". The titletrack on the end of the record crowns that all. This more than ten minutes lasting work contains all fortes of the band. There are calmer notes, fast passages, midtempo, bombast and insane solos. Actually the whole album in one song. The lyrics are about the prophecies of the mid-age savant Nostradamus and they are pretty interesting, in my opinion. But the song is in any case a brilliant closing for this superb album, where's also nothing to criticize in terms of the production.
"Visions" is one of the best STRATOVARIUS records, in my opinion. It has its reasons why many songs apperar in the live set of Tolkki and Co. still today.
"Black Diamond", "Paradise" or "The Kiss Of Judas" are hits for eternity.
All metalheads, which dig on HELLOWEEN, HAMMERFALL, SONATA ARCTICA or GAMMA RAY and don't know this record or even the band, should check this out immediately! Fans have "Visions" already in their collection.
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